Congress

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 21

Some Democrats want to subpoena Pompeo, Mulvaney and Bolton after Sondland testimony

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., listens as ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., holds a copy of the “Report on Russian Active Measures” during his opening statement in the House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony on Wednesday, some Democrats feel the Intelligence Committee should subpoena Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, according to Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee.

Sondland testified that the three senior officials were aware of and signed off on the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

“They’re not going to show up unless they’re ordered to,” the Michigan Democrat said. “I think we have to fight it in court as a matter of principle. But I don’t know that we can — based on what we know and what’s been testified to pretty resoundingly — I don’t know that we should hold up the process awaiting that. They’re going to try to delay. We’re not going to let them stop us as a result.”

The three committees conducting the impeachment inquiry had previously requested Mulvaney and Bolton appear and issued a subpoena to compel Mulvaney to do so. The acting chief of staff did not show up per a White House order not to comply with the inquiry. The committee did not subpoena Bolton, whose lawyers said he would testify if a court sided with Congress’ subpoena over the White House order. The committee never requested testimony from Pompeo, but they did subpoena him for documents that the State Department never turned over.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats won’t wait for the courts to rule when asked if the House should try to compel Pompeo, Mulvaney and Bolton to testify in light of Sondland’s testimony.

“As the court has declared in the case of Richard Nixon unanimously the Congress has the right to subpoena and inquiry and they should be coming before us,” she said. “They keep taking it to court, and no, we’re not going to wait until the courts decide. That might be information that’s available to the Senate in terms of how far we go and when we go. But we can’t wait for that, because again it’s a technique. It’s obstruction of justice. It’s obstruction of Congress.”

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Graham requests: Sen. Lindsey Graham has written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents related to Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, among others.

Graham curiously made the request in his capacity as chairman of the Judiciary Committee rather than as chairman of the State-Foreign Operations subcommittee.

Doxing attempts: Hill described doxing attempts against her that have continued in recent days.

“We’re constantly having to block Twitter posts of my name and address on the internet,” Hill said. “This gets back, certainly, to things that our adversaries can also exploit.”

“I’m sorry to hear about what has happened to Congresswoman Stefanik,” Hill said, acknowledging that Rep. Elise Stefanik, who has risen to prominence during the impeachment hearings, has also faced online attacks.

Tax talk: House Democrats urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to allow of a congressional subpoena for eight years of President Donald Trump’s financial and tax records from accounting firm Mazars USA.

“Presumptions, assumptions and opinions”: The White House dismissed the testimony of former Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill and State Department official David Holmes before they were even finished on Thursday.

The duo “rely heavily on their own presumptions, assumptions and opinions,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “These two witnesses, just like the rest, have no personal or direct knowledge regarding why U.S. aid was temporarily withheld. The Democrats are clearly being motivated by a sick hatred for President Trump and their rabid desire to overturn the 2016 election. The American people deserve better,” she added.

No talk of Trump testimony: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he has talked to Trump several times but they have not spoken about whether Trump should testify in the impeachment inquiry.

“I don’t see what the president would have to answer,” the California Republican said. “The president gave his transcript. What more would you need?”

Partisan pushback: Pelosi on Thursday took issue with the impeachment inquiry being characterized as partisan.

“If the Republicans are in denial about the facts … I don’t think we should be characterized as partisan in any way,” she said, noting Democrats “are patriotic.”

Pelosi also reiterated that Democrats have not decided whether to pursue articles of impeachment.

“We haven’t made any decision, and as I said to the president if you have any information that’s exculpatory, please bring it forward because it seems that the facts are uncontested as to what happened,” she said.

When asked about timing of the impeachment inquiry to come to conclusion, Pelosi contended that’s out of her hands and up to the committees.

“I don’t know anything,” she said.

But Pelosi affirmed what Schiff and others have said — that the House will not wait on ongoing court cases to conclude before proceeding.

“We cannot be at the mercy of the court,” she said. “The courts are very important in all of this. Those cases will continue, but I have never said we cannot proceed without the courts, because that’s a technique on the part of the administration — just keep ratcheting up to a higher court.”

Thursday testimony: Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, pushed strongly against claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections to help Hillary Clinton, a narrative pushed by President Donald Trump, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and some GOP lawmakers.

Hill’s comments, made before the House Intelligence Committee during its fifth day of public hearings on the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, directly challenged defenses made by Republican members of the panel who have grasped for debunked conspiracy theories throughout the proceedings.

Holmes said that promoting a narrative that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections would benefit Moscow.

Holmes said such a theory would “drive a wedge between the United States and Ukraine, which Russia wants to essentially get back into its sphere of influence.”

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff called the Republican narrative a “discredited conspiracy theory.”

Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the committee, pushed back against Hill’s testimony that some Republicans on the committee do not believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and entered into the record a report by Republicans on the committee that acknowledged Russian meddling in 2016.

Speakerphone: Trump disputed Sondland’s testimony on Thursday that the July 26 phone call he took from the president while dining at an outdoor cafe in Kyiv was not with his speakerphone engaged.

“I have been watching people making phone calls my entire life. My hearing is, and has been, great. Never have I been watching a person making a call, which was not on speakerphone, and been able to hear or understand a conversation. I’ve even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!” Trump tweeted as Holmes was beginning to read his opening statement.

Holmes already has told the committee he heard Trump ask Sondland about whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would announce the investigations the president wanted of the Bidens and other Democrats. Asked Wednesday by Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe if he took the call on speakerphone, Sondland replied: “I don’t believe so.”

Spiking the ball: Before Hill and Holmes reached the witness table, Trump took to Twitter to declare Wednesday’s testimony by three administration officials amounted to “a GREAT day” for himself and the GOP.

The president also pledged again — but with no specific date — that he intends to release a summary of his personal finances “sometime prior to Election.” He contended former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, “after spending two years and 45 million dollars, went over all of my financials, & my taxes, and found nothing.” He noted law enforcement officials, who he tried to discredit as “local New York Democrat prosecutors,” were “going over every financial deal I have ever done.”

Whenever he releases that financial document — he has for years refused Democratic demands he release his tax returns — Trump contends it will show “I am much richer than people even thought.”

“Our turf”: Trump used another tweet to call House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff and other Democrats “human scum who have taken Due Process and all of the Republican Party’s rights away from us during the most unfair hearings in American History. ” But, despite damning testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Wednesday, the president declared he and his party “are winning big.”

He then appeared to mock House Democrats over the GOP Senate majority — which has yet to break with him ahead of a possible post-impeachment trial — writing “they will soon be on our turf.”

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